How to Spot Red Flags On Prospect Calls and Avoid Crazy SEO Clients

One of the hardest parts of running an SEO business is getting clients – especially if you’re just starting out.

It can certainly be a relief when the phone rings, and there’s someone on the other end that’s interested in working with you. They’re cashed up, they need help, and you’re literally sitting there desperate for clients.

Sounds good right?

Not always, because let me tell you – not all clients are the same.

I often talk about learning to say no, because sometimes, as hard as it might be, its the right thing to do. Regardless of how much money they’re waving in your face, taking onboard a client that you know you shouldn’t have often turns out to be a huge mistake.

Having said that, I’m going to help save your ass.

Instead of constantly looking at your phone, worrying if that psychopathic client is going to call you again for the 15th time today, I’m going to share with you a few pointers that you need to be mindful of before you say yes to the next possible weirdo that calls.

Trust me, you’ll want to take notes.

Here they are, prospects to avoid.

Churn and burners

This is one that pops up occasionally and it’s definitely one that you need to be mindful of.

Infact I’ve been on numerous calls where I’ve been speaking with a prospect and they’ve said something like, “Yeah John listen, we we’ve tried 20 different SEO agencies over the last 6 months and they’ve all been crap” .

Now listen, I get it.

There’s a lot of shitty SEO service providers out there so I can certainly understand their frustrations.

But seriously, pay attention. If they’ve been jumping from one SEO company to the next every few months then chances are it’s THEM that’s the problem, not the service provider.

Sometimes the client is a nightmare and I’ve certainly had my fair share of them.

I’ve had numerous clients that I just haven’t been able to help because they wouldn’t get out of their own way, and when that happens it usually always ends in tears.

What I would recommend is asking them why.

“Why have they all been shit?”

If their reasons are fair then it might be an exception, but if they’re simply ranting and raving then chances are it’s them.

I’d seriously think twice about taking them on, because chances are, you’ll be next on their shit list.

Armchair experts

These are the type of prospects that you’ll want to avoid at all costs.

They’ll get on a call and start name dropping. “Oh I follow Rand Fishkin and Rusty Brick, Oh and Brian Dean too, so I’m pretty clued in about SEO”.

They’ll start talking about SEO tools and software too. “Oh, I have an Ahrefs and SEMrush account so I can see what you’re doing at my end”. They’ll also try to educate you about how Google works and the latest algorithm updates.

Fuck off.

Now what I don’t understand is why these people (if they’re so experienced) pick up the phone and ask for help in the first place?

So I’ve got someone on the phone literally telling me how to do my job before we’ve even started. I just find it incredibly rude and a massive turn off.

BUT – I always use the Jedi mind trick.

For eg, I’ll always ask “What do you do again Bob? Oh, you’re a builder. Okay, so if I called you and told you all about building codes, and best practices and what tools you should be using, would you be interested in working with me?” to which they ALWAYS reply “Oh ….I see your point, sorry.”

Fucks me off no end.

Don’t work with people who want to tell you how talented they are and how you should do your job.

Send them to over to Fiverr and wish them the best of luck.

Lolly scramblers

This is probably one of the most common you’ll experience working in the SEO space – and that is lolly scramblers.

These are the ones that get on the phone and say –

  • “John this seems rather expensive”
  • “Wow, this other company said they could do it a lot cheaper”
  • “Can I get a discount?”


People that pay you the least amount of money are the ones that make the most amount of noise.

Read that again.

They’ll bitch and complain and argue and annoy the shit out of you.

They’re also the ones that’ll be on the phone every 5 minutes trying to micromanage everything.

  • “This seems like a lot of unnecessary work?”
  • “My wife said she’ll do that so don’t charge me for it”
  • “What if we don’t do that to save some money?”

Its fucking ridiculous.

Prospects like this usually ask a lot of questions about cost before anything else and it’s usually the first sign of trouble.

In most cases I simply turn them away because to them its not an investment, its an expense, and I couldn’t be bothered trying to justify my rates to someone who’s trying to argue over every dollar.

Sinking ships

This relates to businesses that are going down.

Let me give you an example of what they might say on a call.

  • “John I’ve had to remortgage my house twice to keep this business afloat”
  • “I just sold my car to pay for this because the business is losing money fast”
  • “John I really need your help to turn this business around, because my wifes threatening to leave me and take the kids”
  • “My business partner shafted me and is taking me to court, so this better work”

The last thing you’ll want to do is climb on board a sinking ship.

Always best to turn these people away now matter how much money they want to throw at you, because you know it will be your fault that their business is failing, not theirs.

Judge Judy’s

These are prospects that get on the blower and make legal threats before you’ve even had a chance to ask them about their business.

“John, we worked with a previous SEO company and they ripped us off. We’re now involved in an ongoing court case and suing them for $12 million dollars. As a precaution we want you to sign this form for us that says everything is your fault if this doesn’t work and you’ll accept total liability. But hey, listen we’d love to work with you, when can we get started?”

Christ, I’ve had these calls and I haven’t been able to hang up the phone quick enough.

Third person prospects

These are people that get on the phone and they’ll say things like

  • “John my brother in law said that all we need to do is build forum links” or
  • “My wife said the best thing to do is just buy links on Fiverr”
  • “A mate of mine was saying that you just bold your keywords”

These are people that are being influenced by a third person rather than listening to you.

I’ve actually lost clients because of this, because they’d rather listen to their cleaning lady, than listen to me – someone with over 15 years SEO experience.

If you find yourself on a call with a prospect and they keep referring to “advice” that they read online, or got elsewhere – be careful.

You might be signing up 2 clients, not just one.

Barking dogs

I have a saying that I use often “There’s nothing worse than working with a client who buys a dog then stands on the front lawn barking themselves”.

These are clients that will hire you, pay you, and then tell you how to do your job

In fact I had one recently where I rebuilt his entire website. I fixed everything, layout, added in calls to action, fixed up the site structure, then began onpage optimisation and implementing new content. About a week after a large deal of work was completed, he decided to login and change almost everything back to the way the site was before we began.

It was beyond ridiculous.

In addition to that, he continually questioned me about everything.

  • “I think it might be best if we do it this way John, I’ll take care of it”
  • “Content? I disagree, I think we should just build links”
  • “No, I’m not interested in doing that”

If you end up on a call with someone like this and they tell you how to fix their problems, then it might end up becoming a struggle.

Probably best to say thanks but no thanks.

Aspirational types

These are the types of business owners who started their business last Tuesday and they want to be successful by Saturday afternoon.

They think everything is going to be quick, easy and highly profitable overnight.

The problem with people like this is they –

  • Are often oblivious to the amount of work involved
  • Are often impatient
  • Only want to hear what they want to hear and what needs to be said

In most cases startups and aspirational types are the ones with no money at all because everything is based upon “cupcakes and candy cane metrics” rather than reality.

Revenue splitters

Ever had a call from a prospect and they’ve said “Listen this business is going to make a lot of money, you work for me at no cost and I’ll give you 50% of the profits”

How does fuck you sound?

I’ve had quite a few calls like this, and I cant help but to shake my head at people for even asking.

Not only is it rude, but they’re often offering you 50% of nothing.

“Yeah sure, sounds great” – *click”

In summary

Not all prospects are crazy, but there’s certainly a percentage that are.

Always listen closely to the type of language that prospects are using on the first call and ask yourself –

  • Are they being rational? Are they being logical?
  • Is what they’re saying sensible are they emotional scattered or scrambled?
  • Do they have a long-term mindset? Do they understand that SEO takes time?

Most importantly, what does your gut say?

Sometimes you need to forget about everything else (even if the numbers stack up) and go by your gut instincts.

Remember, be careful of who you decide to work with. If it doesn’t feel right, then don’t be afraid to say no.

Interested in working with me?

I help people go from zero to more than a hundred thousand dollars a year FAST, by starting their very own SEO business. That’s right. You could be sitting at home, making money in your undies running your own SEO business.

Want to know more? Get in touch and let’s have a chat.

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